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Composed Salads--Cook-Off 12


Chris Amirault
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Ah, I love composed salads.  They can look so lovely and abundant all spread out on a big platter!

Here's one I did a little while ago:

gallery_21505_358_24996.jpg

new potatoes, roast asparagus, serranoham, eggs, mint. Dressing was a thinned mustard mayo.[...]

For what it's worth, if I had seen that picture in any other context, I wouldn't have thought "salad." It looks to me like cold cuts plus roasted asparagus, with some other things for good measure/decoration (especially the hard-boiled egg quarters).

I think what makes Thai salads with meat in them salads to me is that the ingredients are more evenly mixed together, but if they are, I guess that is contrary to the concept of a composed salad.

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Poached asparagus, top with a few slices of ham or proscuitto and a poached egg. Top with a dressing of seasoned rice vinegar, mayo, salt, pepper and Persian lime olive oil.

I'm ready for lunch!

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Here's another question. In the past, when I've had composed salads, they have been individual salads. When making one for more than one person, do you toss before serving, or serve some of each component and let the eater decide what do do with their portion?

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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I submit to you The World's Smallest Caprese Salad:

20050724_06sm.jpg

That's:

1 - 1/2" thick 2" diameter piece of fresh mozz, surrounded by:

2 - 1/2" thick slices of 2" diameter tomato, topped with:

4 - drops aged balsamic vinegar, encased in:

2 - basil leaves

....it adds up a a mouthful of summer! :-)

Andrea

http://tenacity.net

"You can't taste the beauty and energy of the Earth in a Twinkie." - Astrid Alauda

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Snowangel, I think of composed salads as being in layers, so it's usually easy enough to extract a serving-size "chunk" of salad which offers a vertical sample of most ingredients.

Differences between composed and mixed salads...

larger ingredients?

Dressing...do you think there are any rules here? I usually use a small amount of vinaigrette on the base salad, and a thicker dressing over the "top" ingredients. What about dressing served separately?

Historical aspects - anybody associate composed salads with certain cultures or historical periods?

(Thinks...what about a substantial composed salad for lunch today...pix later with any luck).

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When making one for more than one person, do you toss before serving, or serve some of each component and let the eater decide what do do with their portion?

As part of a pre-wedding evening party, just 2 weeks ago, I did a 'composed' Nicoise for 60. It wasn't the main, just another part of the meal. So a HUGe platter was put together with a layer of lettuce, then sections of egg, beans, olives, tomatoes, potatoes and onions were on top. OVer the whole thing were placed thin slices of grilled tuna. The entire thing was drizzled with a tarragon, balsamic, red wine, dijon, olive oil, s&p and garlic dressing - with more on the side if anybody wanted. It worked like any vegetable of fruit platter would - people helped themselves to a little of each thing with tongs. It went fast!

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So, my first composed salad.

I must preface this by saying that tonight was a perfect night for dining outside. Slight breeze on the deck, no bugs. Couldn't have been better.

What made this dinner even better was that Diana (daughter, age 14) and I worked in concert, making croutons, frying bacon, and making aioli (mayo with garlic). We cut together, decided on a platter together, and decided on just how to arrange it. This was a serious garlic commitment, BTW.

gallery_6263_35_21018.jpg.

We laid down lettuce (romaine) dressed with the mayo, and then arranged the stuff on top, and obviously, none too artfully. We decided after the fact that we would do this slightly differently next time: lay a ring of tomato on the outside, a ring of lettuce, and pile the croutons in the middle, topping the croutons with the bacon. Partly so the tomatoes didn't get the croutons so damp, and so that any bacon fat would meld into the croutons.

We're doing chicken something on the grill tomorrow night, and I'm doing extra chix for leftovers for another composed salad. Diana and I are inspired.

We ate this, on the deck, accompanied by that first of the season sweet corn. That sweet corn that says "I don't need butter. I don't need anything. And, you will never have better sweet corn than these ears." But, then again, we say that every year with the best of the first corn.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Composed salad for dinner...pix to follow as soon as son1 can be roused to dig the camera USB cable out of his room...

gallery_7941_961_42665.jpg

It was well worth the tiny effort involved - it hit the table to oohs and aahs, and all disappeared, foiling my plans for LEFTOVERS for tomorrow. No fancy presentation or sauces as this was a top-speed effort - I was working all day, and husband had to race out early on neighborhood patrol with other members of the fathers' group at the local junior high school.

Outer ring; long onions (think leeks) simmered in acidulated water and dressed with vinagrette; alternating with potato slices ditto. Potato slices topped with tomato, leeks interspersed with chunks of boiled egg and sticks of cucumber pickles. Black pepper ground over.

Second ring: Vinaigrette-dressed mizuna leaf.

Center: Boiled eggplant dressed in the liquor left from cooking a pork fillet - a little ginger and garlic, soy sauce, sweet rice wine. Meat sliced and drizzled with the cooking liquor, then arranged on top of the bed of eggplant. Red pepper.

Edited by helenjp (log)
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Here's one of my favorites, adapted from the March 1983 Gourmet magazine:

Mixed Vegetable Salad with Sweet and Sour Dressing

1 small red cabbage, cored and shredded fine

1 T salt

1 lb cooked green beans

1 c cooked corn

(I think they also added jicama, but I don't use it.)

Place cabbage in a colander; mix with salt and allow to drain for about half an hour or so.

Arrange as desired on a large serving platter, or on individual salad plates. The original picture showed each ingredient piled in wedge-shaped sections -- think of wedges of pie.

Dressing:

1 garlic clove

1 onion, sliced thin

1/3 c honey

¼ c tarragon vinegar

¼ c fresh lemon juice

1 t dry mustard

½ t red pepper flakes

Worcestershire sauce to taste

pinch dried thyme

1 c vegetable oil

1 T snipped fresh chives

1 t snipped fresh dill

1 t minced fresh parsley leaves

Mix first nine dressing ingredients, then add oil in a stream in food processor or blender. and store in a jar overnight. Next day, strain. add chives, dill, and parsley. Makes about 2 cups. Use about half the dressing on the above salad ingredients; pass the rest.

----------------------

Obviously, all kinds of vegetables could be added or substituted, depending upon the season and available ingredients.

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It was too hot to do any real cooking today, so I composed a salad, and remembered to take a picture of it!

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The base is leaf lettuce and micro greens (a fancy way of saying I thinned the latest planting of mesclun greens) from the garden. The ingredients on top are: bacon, grilled zucchini (from the garden), sliced hard boiled egg, cherry tomatoes, sliced radishes, and sliced cucmbers. I marinated a couple of chicken breasts in lemon juice, olive oil, and fresh herbs (from the garden), grilled and sliced them, sprinkled sliced green onion over top (from the garden), and garnished with nasturtium blossoms (yes, they're from the garden too).

I admit that after all that harvesting and washing and chopping I was too tired to make a proper dressing, so my husband used Ranch and I used Blue Cheese, both out of a bottle. He had water, I had iced tea.

While eating dinner, I realized that what makes a composed salad differ for me is that it is set up in a way that you can make every bite different. I had bacon and eggs in one bite, zucchini and tomato in the next. It's one dish that becomes many as you eat - as opposed to, say, chicken salad, where you're going for an even mix. A classic tossed salad borders this distinction, because while yes, there are different ingredients so mouthfuls can be different, there usually aren't enough of the toppings. They're more a garnish to the greens.

At least that's my philosophy.

Marcia.

Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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After visiting a farmer's market and a little, local produce place yesterday:

gallery_25849_641_15430.jpg

Ribeye steak, fresh corn and red/green onions - all grilled. New potatoes and green and wax beens, steamed. Orange tomatoes and purple bell pepper, left raw and crisp. All on a bed of mixed baby greens. Served with a balsamic, red wine vin., olive and canola oils, grainy dijon mustard, honey, shallot, basil, garlic and s&p dressing.

I'm ready to have it again. Maybe next week :wink:

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Would a Caprese Salad count? I made one last week, and since my own tomatoes aren't ripe yet, I'm not going to make another one until they are, so a description will have to suffice (rather than a picture, I mean).

Actually, in Italy it is traditional to make insalata Caprese with less-than-fully-ripe tomatoes called pomodori per insalata ("salad tomatoes"). Sometimes they have quite a bit of green, and they're always a little crisp rather than having the full redness and soft ripeness one typically sees in the US.

--

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Made a salade nicoise last night -- no pix, sorry; the digital camera batteries ran out -- and it raised an interesting point. In a few descriptions of salads, particularly the Larousse Gastronomique, there are firm statements about the need for dressings not to overpower ingredients. Last night's vinaigrette was simple enough (EVOO, rice wine vinegar, garlic pounded with salt, little dijon mustard, some pepper), and it was perfect for the really strong ingredients: we have a wonderful Portuguese tuna, some great green beans, excellent eggs, and some good provencal olives.

But a composed salad really brings out the worst in lousy ingredients: the mediocre gaeta (couldn't get good nicoise, of course) were overpoweringly bad; the anchovy fillets were just fishy salt and nothing else; the potatoes were ok, but only with plenty of dressing slathered on them.

On those eggs, Shirley Corriher's method -- full boil for 30 seconds; cover for 15 minutes; rinse in cold water for 5 -- is perfect.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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gallery_13038_1496_613.jpg

Duh. Finally, it occured to me that for the past two to three weeks, the salad kick we have been on is a composed salad. We've had this probably four or five times recently. We slice tomatoes and dribble some malt vinegar on them and then a little EVOO. Then we sprinkle generously with coarse kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and some chopped or shredded scallions. That goes on top of whatever salad greens we have on hand, and is surrounded by whatever else is on hand -- tonight avocado, cucumber, and sweet onion rings. Then we set it in the fridge until it's time for dinner. The tomatoes simply dressed with malt vinegar and olive oil is what we've been wanting over and over. It's really good.

...I've participated several times in this Cook-Off and didn't even realize it. :smile:

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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One of my families favourite salads;

preferable heirloom tomatoes, but regular ones will do, diced up fairly large, cucumbers cut in half then sliced, adding kosher salt to both in a big bowl to sweat.

At least 1 whole avocado forked - lemon and lime juice - a little chilli if you desire.

Its best if you let it sit for at least 20 minutes before eaten.

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I've been wondering what percentage of vegetable (or fruit?) matter a dish has to have to be a composed salad. Is Nasi Lemak a composed salad? I've never heard anyone say it was, but what do you all think? For those of you who don't know what Nasi Lemak is, click on that link for the results of an image search in yahoo.com. Note that though it is quite fatty (nasi lemak means "fatty rice" or "rice and fat" in Malay), it typically includes cucumber and often pineapple slices among the sambals (side dishes to eat with the rice).

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Those tomatoes look GOOD. (So does the whole salad, but I am really craving good tomatoes and tomato season doesn't start for a couple of weeks.)

Marcia.

Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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Marcia, they are good. I recently discovered a new produce market where their tomatoes are exceptionally good. And, they sell pickling cucumbers! During the months they are available, they are the only cucumbers I use, so that made me happy, too.

Michael, I don't know... In the photos to me they looked like regular timbales or scoops of rice. However, that in itself is a good idea for an addition to a plated salad! I love rice salads in general.

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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I've been wondering what percentage of vegetable (or fruit?) matter a dish has to have to be a composed salad. Is Nasi Lemak a composed salad? I've never heard anyone say it was, but what do you all think? For those of you who don't know what Nasi Lemak is, click on that link for the results of an image search in yahoo.com. Note that though it is quite fatty (nasi lemak means "fatty rice" or "rice and fat" in Malay), it typically includes cucumber and often pineapple slices among the sambals (side dishes to eat with the rice).

I was thinking about gado gado myself-- my personal favorite composed salad. Really great on a hot day. See photos here if you are intersted in what it looks like. Great recipe on food and wine.com that suggests swirling the dressing on the plate, and then layering veggies and eggs on top. Hum. Might have to make that for dinner tonight.

I'd love to hear more about nasi lemak. What's in it other than fatty rice?, pineapple, cucumber, and fried egg? Looks great! Got a recipe to PM me? I am happy to do the same with gado gado recipe.

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I've always thought of gado-gado as a salad.

I don't have my own nasi lemak recipe, but if you want to start a thread on nasi lemak in Elsewhere in Asia/Pacific (or, if you prefer, Cooking), I'm sure you'll get pointed in the right direction.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I went traditional - Cobb Salad. But as I was uploading my picture I shouted, "Damn I forgot the hard boiled eggs!!!"

Still pretty good though.

cobbsalad9sp.jpg

Edited by bilrus (log)

Bill Russell

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There's some great entries here and I have to also mention how nice it is to see people enjoying some fruits of their labour in the garden.

I usually find time to put a salad like this together on my days off. That is today.

dscf00049dn.jpg

Plated first were organic micro-greens, baby spinach and some torn organic basil from the garden.

I yanked a few young tomatoes off the pot we have on our balcony, and they're seen alongside an orange heirloom from the farmer's market. The garden tomatoes had a nice hint of green which kept them crunchy. A few basil leaves in between slices and a little s&p on top.

Next to that is a marinated tuna salad (EVOO, s&p, sherry vinegar and a bit of lemon juice) and a couple of olives next to it. I braised some fresh red radishes in a bit of rice vinegar, salt and sugar, then boiled it down to a syrup and topped the beans with it. Finally, a chunk of Feta, a few wedges of pecorino romano and a few slices of Oka cheese to round it out.

Not pictured was a light vinegrette that the greens were tossed with. Don't recall everything but wine vinegar, a dash of whipping cream, olive oil and fresh oregano were part of it.

All in all a nice salad and excellent lazy lunch (this being the fairly hungover day that follows a long weekend in Canada). Next time I would throw a couple of artichoke hearts on there, and sub out the feta for some warmed goat cheese and walnuts...not to complain or anything :)

Edited by Jason Perlow (log)
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